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Latest on Flannery’s plan for new Solano City (California Forever)

[BenIndy note: We don’t often expect much good reporting from Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post, but the following story is thorough, fair and timely – highly recommended. Below that are links to three recent local reports from our Vallejo paper, and a few links to Bay Area tv reports. Check ’em out and stay informed. Oh, and… you might be interested in the petition: Oppose Flannery Associates and No to California Forever.]

$1B Silicon Valley-backed utopian city ‘California Forever’ facing national security probe: pols

Solano County
Flannery Associates has bought up nearly $1 billion in land located in Solano County. AFP via Getty Images

New York Post, by Thomas Barrabi, Published Nov. 12, 2023

A planned utopian city in California continues to face a high-stakes probe by a US national security panel – and state politicians still aren’t satisfied that the secretive project isn’t linked to China.

Since 2017, a little-known firm called Flannery Associates has stealthily bought up nearly $1 billion in land next to Travis Air Force Base, sparking alarms on Capitol Hill that a foreign entity could be backing the project for nefarious purposes.

Similar concerns arose last year after a Chinese firm bought 300 acres of land near an Air Force drone base in North Dakota.

In August, Flannery tried to calm nerves by revealing its backers included US tech tycoons such as LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman and venture capitalist Marc Andreessen.

The group has said the land’s proximity to Travis was unintentional and outlined plans to develop a picturesque city featuring sustainable energy, a pedestrian-friendly layout and good-paying jobs.

John Garamendi
Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.) is among those who have raised concerns about Flannery’s origins. CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Nevertheless, the US Treasury Department’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) – an interagency panel responsible for vetting business transactions for potential national security risks – is still actively reviewing the project as of this month, a pair of California lawmakers told The Post.

Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif), who previously blasted Flannery for using “strong-arm mobster techniques” to acquire land from local farmers, told The Post that the firm’s explanation to date is “only half of the story” – and claimed the project bears the hallmarks of a “patient” foreign investment scheme.

“To say it’s ‘American money’ is not a complete explanation of who is the investor,” Garamendi said. “I’ve been around long enough to understand the way foreign money – legitimate and illegitimate – is invested in the United States. Usually in an LLC, in a real estate transaction.”

Flannery Associates was originally registered as an LLC in Delaware, which does not require an ownership disclosure. The project’s organizers describe California Forever as Flannery’s parent company.

Flannery has rankled Solano County residents with vaguely-defined plans to build the city on patches of dry, unincorporated farmland that is pockmarked with wind turbines and abandoned gas wells and is known to lack enough infrastructure to support a large population.

California Forever
The first renderings of the “California Forever” project emerged earlier this fall. California Forever

Catherine Moy, the mayor of Fairfield, Calif., said the feds are “still investigating” the situation and were “not 100% that China is not behind funding on this.”

“CFIUS, they’re still going forward with their investigation. You can trust but verify, especially with things like this,” Moy said. “A couple of the investors already are very connected with China, business-wise.”

The CFIUS probe was first reported by CNN in August – weeks after it emerged that Garamendi and fellow US Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) had asked the panel and the FBI to investigate the matter.

The duo noted that Travis is a critical military transport hub known as the “Gateway to the Pacific” that serves as a key conduit for shipments to Ukraine, among other key functions.

“My concerns with the land acquisition in Solano County have always been on national security and food security,” Thompson said in a statement. “Their rapid acquisition of land around Travis Air Force Base caused concern about who was making the purchases and their ultimate goal.”

A spokesperson for Travis Air Force base confirmed that “senior officials are actively supporting all involved federal and Solano County agencies regarding the land purchases.” The spokesperson referred further questions to the Treasury Department.

The Treasury Department did not return multiple requests for comment.

When reached for comment, a Flannery Associates spokesperson said the project has “no other foreign investors” beyond those it has disclosed.

The firm has said its investors are passive and have no role in day-to-day operations.

“While most area electeds have taken an open-minded approach to the opportunity our project presents for local jobs, investments, homes for middle class families, and clean power, a couple of local politicians are unfortunately and irresponsibly spreading rumors and misinformation to insinuate that California Forever is a not an American company,” the spokesperson said.

“We have complied with all government inquiries and provided documents (including all investment agreements and subscription agreements) that unquestionably prove that over 97% of our invested capital comes from U.S. investors, and that the remaining less than 3% comes from UK and Irish investors (Patrick and John Collison, with smaller stakes held by Charles Songhurst and Thomas Mather),” the spokesperson added.

Fairfield, California mayor Catherine Moy
Fairfield, California mayor Catherine Moy is an outspoken critic of the city project.

So far, the list of publicly-disclosed Flannery investors includes Hoffman, Andreesen, his investment firm Andreesen Horowitz, former Sequoia Capital partner Michael Moritz, Stripe co-founders Patrick and John Collison, Chris Dixon, John Dooer, Nat Friedman, Daniel Gross and Laurene Powell Jobs, the prominent philanthropist and widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.

Moritz spent nearly four decades at Sequoia Capital and helped spearhead the venture firm’s expansion into China before exiting last June. Sequoia Capital itself has not been linked to Flannery Associates or the “California Forever” project, though the House Select Committee on China recently revealed it was probing the firm’s investments and business interests in China.

Moritz did not immediately return requests for comment.

A Sequoia Capital spokesperson confirmed that the firm had received the select committee’s letter about the probe, was “reviewing it and will respond.”

Jan Sramek.
Flannery Associates CEO Jan Srakek has denied that his firm wants to build a “utopian” city.  KGO-TV

Flannery CEO Jan Sramek has scrambled to downplay the project’s ties to the tech industry, describing it as a “city of yesterday.”

Its website specifically rejects the notion that it is building a “tech utopia” and said Flannery is “not proposing a pie-in-the-sky ‘utopian’ fantasy.”

Critics, including Garamendi and Moy, argue that Sramek and his team are merely trying to reframe the project due to local backlash.

“The story has changed,” Moy said. “Any credibility he was trying to earn after being secretive for five years is being lost because he’s changing the story now. That’s what happens with people who you can’t trust.”

Cars on Highway 12 between Suisun City and Rio Vista. (Chris Riley/The Reporter)

California Forever form community advisory committee | Company makes statement ahead of SCWA meeting
Vallejo Times-Herald, Nov 9, 2023
>> California Forever announced a community advisory committee, full of current and formal public officials and community leaders from across Solano County. The committee, according to a press release from the company… (continued)

California Forever CEO Jan Sramek during a packed Solano County Water Agency meeting in Vacaville. (Chris Riley/The Reporter)

Turning off the tap | SCWA directs staff not to discuss Water Plus with California Forever
Vallejo Times-Herald, Nov 10, 2023
>> The Solano County Water Agency Board of Directors told its staff not to continue discussions with California Forever regarding their proposed development project in eastern Solano County.   At a regular meeting of the board Thursday evening, over 90 attendees and public commenters filled the meeting room… (continued)

Sheep graze in a plot of land east of CA 113.  (Chris Riley/The Reporter)

What would a new Solano County city mean for Vallejo? | California Forever promises high-paying jobs; officials question company’s approach
Vallejo Times-Herald, Nov 11, 2023
>> With stances ranging from skepticism to outright hostility, Vallejo officials are pushing back against what they say is a shamelessly ambitious plan to construct a new city of between 100,000 and 400,000 people in eastern Solano County…. (continued)


NBC BAY AREA NEWS: ‘California Forever’ CEO shows tour of proposed site amid uphill battle with Solano County residents, leaders, by Jodi Hernandez, Nov 10, 2023

KTVU Fox News: California Forever: 1st tour of Solano County land bought for $800M under mysterious circumstances, by KTVU staff, Nov 10, 2023

KXTV ABC10 Sacramento: California Forever proposes land swap, $1M toward habitat conservation, by Devin Trubey, Krys Shahin, Nov 11, 2023

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE about the proposed Flannery Inc. land grab here on the BenIndy


TODAY 2-5 pm – Learn about Ruby Bridges at Benicia Public Library’s free, family-friendly event

Get ready for Ruby Bridges Walk to School Day with Benicia Public Library and BBLM

From Benicia Public Library:

Who is Ruby Bridges? And why are we walking to school for her? Come find out! The Library invites children, families, teens, and adults of all ages to the launch of a new program series: “We Are All Related”.

The inaugural “We Are All Related” event will celebrate Ruby Bridges and help children get ready for the annual Ruby Bridges Walk to School Day. Six-year-old Ruby Bridges stepped into the history books November 14, 1960, when she became one of the first students to integrate William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans, Louisiana. Since 2018, students have celebrated Ruby’s courage by walking to school making Ruby Bridges Walk to School Day the perfect opportunity to teach children about the civil rights movement and make connections to our ongoing, collective efforts to end racism.

2:00 pm: Stories about and related to Ruby Bridges

3:00 pm: Messages from Benicia Mayor Steve Young and BUSD Superintendent Damon Wright

3:15 pm: A screening of the movie about Ruby Bridges

PLUS, snacks, crafts, and community conversation.

Disclaimers: Benicia Public Library does not support or oppose any political party or candidate.  This is not a program of the Benicia Unified School District (BUSD); BUSD accepts no liability or responsibility for this program, nor does it support or oppose any political party or candidate.  Benicia Independent is not affiliated with either Benicia Public Library or BUSD.  

Moving Forward to Improve Benicia’s Industrial Safety and Health – An Open Letter to Benicia

Valero’s Benicia Refinery.  | Pat Toth-Smith.

On Sept 5, Benicia’s City Council unanimously initiated the first step of a process to assess the need to graduate the current Memo of Understanding (MOU) with Valero Benicia Refinery to an ordinance.

This step, which asks staff review the MOU, underscores the importance of transition from an MOU to an ordinance that would provide additional local oversight to help ensure appropriate measures are in place to protect the health and safety of our community.

Timing of the request corresponds with early planning for the sunset of the current Valero MOU set to terminate in June 2025.

Vice Mayor Terry Scott and Council Member Kari Birdseye, the two councilmembers who introduced the issue, clearly believe the primary responsibility of our City Council and City Government is to safeguard the health, safety and well-being of our residents, businesses, and visitors.

It is also Council’s responsibility to ensure that industries, which operate within our jurisdiction, employ the best available technology to detect emissions and discharges and best practices. Community notifications of emergencies or failures to meet state and federal regulations are a priority as well.

This responsibility extends beyond traditional roles like policing, firefighting, safe water, and wastewater treatment. It encompasses ensuring the quality of the air we breathe.

The two-step request posed the question: Does the City of Benicia possess the most efficient and effective tools to regulate, monitor, and enforce air and toxic safety standards that impact our community? This includes real-time emission measurement, performance monitoring, transparency, air quality management and stronger communications.

Our defined ask in the two-step process is for staff to analyze current MOU’s performance metrics and evaluate whether additional regulation is needed. Additionally, we request that an analysis of key learnings of our current working communications, monitoring and cooperation agreement with Valero be included in this process.

It is our belief that the time has come to explore the best practices to manage air quality and emissions, amplify transparency and real-time communication, establish cutting-edge monitoring measures, prioritize public health, encourage environmental stewardship, cultivate community trust, and elevate measurement and trust standards.

Simply put, we can only manage what we monitor. We must adequately monitor our air quality near the refinery and throughout our community.

We look forward to working with city staff, community groups, businesses, and concerned citizens to create a model of local air and health regulations that better protects Benicia.

In Service,

Vice Mayor Scott and City Council Member Birdseye

There is a group of concerned citizens of Benicia who also support the adoption of a Benicia Industrial Safety and Health Ordinance (BISHO). To learn more about the effort and add your support, visit

Benicia proceeds with SafeQuest Solano housing project, despite controversy

SafeQuest Solano executive director Mary Anne Branch speaks at a Benicia City Council meeting on Tuesday. | City of Benicia.

The city council sidestepped allegations made by former employees that SafeQuest’s shelters went largely unused for months.

Vallejo Sun, by Scott Morris, November 9, 2023

BENICIA – The Benicia City Council on Tuesday voted unanimously to proceed with a plan to sell city-owned property to the nonprofit SafeQuest Solano to open new transitional housing for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking, despite recent allegations that SafeQuest has misused public resources.

The council’s vote followed an emotional public hearing where proponents of the organization read statements from survivors who had been assisted by SafeQuest and one woman gave an account of leaving an abusive marriage and staying with her children in a safe house operated by SafeQuest for three weeks.

But members of the city council sidestepped allegations made by former employees that SafeQuest’s shelters went largely unused for months and that an attorney for the organization lived in a shelter rented from the city of Fairfield for $1 per year. The allegations, reported by the Vallejo Sun in June, have spurred calls for an investigation and led to eroding support for the organization.

Each councilmember reported during the meeting that they met with SafeQuest executive director Mary Anne Branch privately to address concerns. But the councilmembers did not ask for a public explanation. Branch and SafeQuest have declined to answer questions from the Vallejo Sun, both before and after publication of the June investigation.

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